Gone are the days when almost anyone that can set up a web server would offer a search engine of their own. These days, any custom engine is often powered by either Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Yandex and Baidu in certain countries. That is exactly what is happening with Verizon’s unexpected OneSerch engine, which actually serves up results from Microsoft Bing. That, however, isn’t what makes it interesting. Rather it is its promise to protect users’ privacy that will probably raise not a few eyebrows.
On the surface, Verizon promises that OneSearch goes above and beyond the call of duty to protect user privacy beyond disabling tracking cookies and search history. For example, it promises to encrypt search terms and promises not to share personal data with advertisers. All of that while still having room to serve contextual ads.
Verizon explains that contradiction by a few exceptions to its no tracking policy. For one, it actually does track down your location from your IP address but only up to a city level. It also only serves ads based on the current search terms and doesn’t remember them across searches. It also promises that search results links, which are already encrypted, will also expire after an hour.
This is definitely a surprising announcement from Verizon’s Media arm, the division in charge of the likes of Yahoo and AOL acquisitions. That division hasn’t had any success profiting from Verizon’s pricey acquisitions and this latest attempt doesn’t seem promising either. OneSearch is currently available only to North American users via web browsers but mobile apps are promised to arrive later this month.
This rather intriguing all boils down to how much users will be able to trust Verizon. Even disregarding Yahoo’s privacy and security lapses (which is probably why it didn’t use search engine technology it already owned), Verizon has also been involved in a few privacy-related scandals of its own.